From familiar faces to superstar duos, the players we met in the group stage

Korean Air players aren’t the only ones in Bahrain. You can meet familiar faces, new faces, and curious faces.

The group stage of the 2023 Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Men’s Club Volleyball Championship, which is being held in Manama, Bahrain, ended on the 16th (local time). The 8 teams that advanced to the top round and the 8 teams that went down to the ranking match will take a day off on the 17th and then join the EFGH group again to continue the fierce competition.

Korean Air, which belongs to Group A, advanced to the upper round as 2nd in the group with a record of 2 wins and 1 loss (6 points). For Korean volleyball fans, Korean Air players will be the first to notice, but in this tournament, numerous players other than Korean Air players are showing off great games every day. Here are some of the players who caught the eye during the group stage.

Familiar faces – Nicola Melanyak (Serbia), Daudi Okello (Uganda), Yosbani Hernandez (Cuba), Artur Woodris (Belarus) Many players who went through the V-
League participated in this tournament. Among them, Daudi (Bayangkara, Jakarta) and Yosbani (Al Ahli) were tied to Group A, the same as Korean Air, and faced off against each other.

Yosbani, who is scheduled to reappear in the V-League as a member of Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance from next season, greeted Korean officials at the dorm and laughed when some officials chanted “Samsung” to him. In the match against Korean Air, he played as the starting outside hitter, but struggled with a flood of target hits and withdrew to the warm-up zone in the third set.

Another familiar face, Daudi, also started the match against Korean Air. He showed a somewhat sluggish performance in the first set, but from the second set, he made good use of his high RBI and his unique momentum, driving Korean Air hard. Dowdy, who did his part in serving and attacking, gave Korean Air their first bitter defeat in the tournament.

In addition to this, I was able to meet Nicola, who played for Iraq’s South Gas Sports Club, and Woodris, who played for Kazakhstan’s Atyrau. Nicola, in particular, still fluttered his trademark long, curly hair and was attacking with strength. After all the preliminary matches, Nicola had a pleasant conversation with coach Tommy Tilikayinen for quite a long time in the hotel lobby.

A deadly ambush – Farhan Hareem (Indonesia), Mohamed Javad Manabi (Iran)
The appearance of a new face comes with a completely different feeling depending on whose side he appears on. A new face appearing on the ally is fresh and welcome, but a new face popping out from the other side is embarrassing and burdensome.

Unfortunately, an unexpected ambush appeared on the other side of Korean Air in this tournament. They are Farhan Hareem and Mohamed Javad Manabi from Jakarta Bayangkara. As Korean Air was on the rise with two consecutive shutout victories in the group stage, expectations were high that they would beat Jakarta and take first place in the group. However, Farhan and Manabi poured cold water on Korean Air’s heated atmosphere.

Both players performed outstandingly on both sides of the ball. Receive and attack were flawless. Of course, both players had their own sharp weapons among them. Farhan broke Korean Air’s receiving line with a sharp and quick serve. His serve, which came out of a stable routine, pierced every corner of Korean Air’s court with a trajectory that almost stuck to the net.

On the other hand, Manabi showed strength in a 1:1 matchup on the wing. When he attacks, he leisurely uses the blocking 스포츠토토of the Korean Air blockers, and on the contrary, when blocking the attack of the Korean Air strikers, he shows off his skill by turning well to block the preferred course. As his height of 198 cm and cleverness were added, Korean Air’s wing strikers, including Lim Dong-hyuk, had a hard time dealing with him. Farhan and Manabi played a key role in defeating Korean Air and enabling Jakarta to advance to the top round as No. 1 in the group.

The news of the superstar duo – Saeed Marouf, Amir Gafour (Iran) and
Dmitri Mushalski (Russia, Suntory Sunbirds) participating in the tournament became a hot topic for many volleyball fans. Even though it has come down a little from the peak, the fact that a player who competed for the best in the world participated in this competition itself became a box office factor.

However, there are star players with brilliant careers besides Mushalski in this competition. Shadab Yazd (Iran), who are participating in the tournament, are representative of the duo of setter Saeed Marouf and Apogjit Amir Gapoor. Rated as one of the best setters in Asia, Marouf is nicknamed ‘Magic Beard’ for his distinctive beard. Marouf, who also played in big leagues such as Siena (Italy) and Fenerbahce (Turkiye), won the 2014 World League Best Setter, China League Best Setter, and Turkiye Cup Best Setter, imprinting his name wherever he went.

Gafur is also a star player representing Iran and boasts a brilliant career. He came through big clubs such as Roubaix and Monza (Italy), and won the top scorer in the 2014 World League and the 2019 Volleyball Nations League (VNL). In the previous season, the 2022-2023 season, the Iranian league was also selected as MVP.

Marouf and Gapoor boasted excellent teamwork and led Shadab Yazd to three consecutive wins in the group stage without a loss. Both players are past their prime years, but they still had no rivals at the Asian level. Marouf, who used various options to solve the game, found Gafur without a doubt when the situation did not go his way, and Gafur lightly scored and lightened Maruf’s shoulders. It was a performance worthy of a superstar duo that Iran is proud of.

From now on, the competition will be more intense than the group stage. In the upper round, we are looking forward to seeing what other faces will delight volleyball fans.

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